Looking for payback in 2016

Photo courtesy of Michael Lasko

The Regina Thunder have been upset in the PFC playoffs in the last two seasons on home turf and haven’t won a playoff game since winning the 2013 Canadian Bowl.  With a number of returning players this season, the Thunder have high expectations in 2016.

What’s Changing?

The Thunder’s foundation is strong on the field, but they are making a difference off the field getting more into the community this coming season.  Players are leading the Community Involvement Leadership program that has engrained the club in the community by working with several organizations like Athletes Against Bullying, Ehrlo Sport Venture, Bright Eyes Dog Rescue and Wascana Rehabilitation Centre. Their goal is to pay it forward to local organizations that help shape future leaders. The Thunder feel strongly that with these types of commitment levels from their players, who are also working and/or going to school full time, will put this program in a good position to reach their yearly goals.

Graduating Players:

WR Preston Bews: He became one of the most dangerous weapons for the Thunder over the last two seasons with 71 receptions, 1,012 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2014 he was named a PFC All-Star hauling in 45 passes.

OL Kyle Deschene: The fifth year senior helped the Thunder to one of the most proficient running attacks in 2015.   Both Colton Klassen and Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette finished in the top four in PFC rushing yards, combining to carry 205 times for 1,688 yards and 16 touchdowns.  Without Deschene busting open huge holes the Thunder running attack would not have been the same.

DB Dustin Erbach: He was one of the leaders for the Thunder’s defence in 2015 during his fifth and final season.  The Regina native led his club with 79 defensive points collecting 22 tackles, 15 assisted stops, three knockdowns, a forced fumble and three interceptions.

What They Need:

With a strong foundation and a number of returning starters the Thunder are fortunate to have most positions filled heading into 2016.  However head coach Scott MacAulay is hoping to add depth to running back and both to the offensive and defensive lines.

Counting On:

On the offensive side of the ball the Thunder will rely on their offensive line to keep their quarterbacks safe. Matt Knight will return for his fifth and final year and will be looked upon to anchor the line.

Quarterback Sawyer Buettner will also be looked upon to make an impact.  In a back-up role last year, the rookie did see significant playing time due to an injured Jaeden Marwick.   The Moose Jaw native completed 58.9% of his passes for 485 yards and a pair of touchdowns, not throwing a single interception.  ReceiverKasim Ocaya will no doubt be the main target after the graduation of Bews.  Last season Ocaya caught 25 passes for 443 yards and five touchdowns.

Over on the defensive side the Thunder will look to linebacker Paul Toth to continue to lead them.  Last year he compiled 23 tackles and had two interceptions.  Defensive back Ryan Filyk who enters his fourth year will be asked to make an impact in the secondary while Ryan Warner on the defensive line will play an important role in rushing the passer.

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